When you work in software development or project management, Agile is something that’s bound to get mentioned sooner or later. It has been around for decades, with its ever-evolving approach and philosophy continuing to help tens of thousands of project and software teams achieve optimized results on a regular basis.
However, Agile is more of a philosophy than a strict methodology. It can be applied in a number of different ways, and this has led to the emergence of several Agile frameworks over time. Some, such as AgilePM and PRINCE2 Agile, focus exclusively on project management, while options like Scrum deal more with software development.
Rather than being an alternative to Agile, Scrum is simply another iteration of the philosophy. So, what is it that makes it so distinct that people imagine it as being a competitor to the general Agile approach? And how do you decide if Scrum is right for you?
What is Scrum?
Scrum is an Agile methodology with a specific process for clarifying:
- What work needs to be done
- Who will be responsible for it
- How goals will be completed
- When goals will be completed
One of the terms most associated with Scrum is ‘sprinting’. This is when a team identifies short-term goals during a meeting or ‘stand-up’. The required work will then be completed within a specified amount of time, or ‘sprint’, that usually lasts around two to four weeks. At the end of this period, the team should have tangible and usable results to present. This process will then be repeated until the full scope of the project has been fulfilled.
What distinguishes Scrum sprints from traditional project goals is that it also requires teams to present the results to clients on a regular basis – not simply updates, but results that can be utilized immediately. Teams are also given leeway to engage in a greater amount of experimentation and innovation in how they approach targets.
For ‘sprints’ to work, Scrum team members require a certain level of autonomy and accountability. Once goals are established, team members will depart to complete their work without unnecessary managerial oversight. This is a large departure from more traditional styles, in which managerial control has much more prominence.
How is this different from Agile in general? To put it simply, Agile is a general philosophy that can be applied in a number of different ways. Most Agile projects involve iterative goals, for example. Scrum, however, is a methodology with specified processes to be completed in a certain way. It also involves delivering results that create tangible business value after every sprint, rather than simply updating clients on progress or creating new goals.
Is Scrum right for me?
It is important to realize that, as popular as Scrum might be, it is only suited to certain situations and environments. If a client requires continuous results, or a project is likely to experience frequent changes and testing, then Scrum may well be the best option.
For a project that has strict requirements with far less scope for flexibility, Scrum likely won’t be the best choice. Managers may find options like AgilePM or PRINCE2 Agile more appropriate, as both of these seek to help users enjoy the benefits of Agile while still exercising a more traditional level of control.
In short, rather than approaching Scrum from a ‘Scrum vs. Agile’ perspective, it would be more appropriate to ask yourself, “Is Scrum the best version of Agile for me?”